Johnathan Laird: My first year on the RPS Scottish Pharmacy Board

Johnathan LairdJohnathan Laird is a member of the Scottish Pharmacy Board. One year ago, he was elected at the Board and today he is sharing his experience of being part of a team of great pharmacy professionals. Here is what Johnathan had to say in his own words…  

My relationship with the RPS has been rather patchy over the years. Like many, I cynically questioned the value of the organisation.

How naive I was. Yet another error in the course of my career.

Just over two years ago I made a decision to come out of my shell and get involved. This was the best decision of my career so far.

And there lies the most potent point about the RPS or about becoming a national Board member that I could make. If you choose not to engage and be involved in the professional body, then your chances of shaping your own future or the future of our profession are almost completely diminished. For those more interested in your own practice, I would say that running for election has many other benefits. For example, your professional opinions are questioned and these should be clear as part of the election process. This, I believe, is a good thing. Learning to articulate your own viewpoint whilst listening carefully to and appreciating the views of fellow professionals is a valuable experience.


So the truth is I was quite unhappy with pharmacy just over two years ago. The traditional route to becoming a pharmacy contractor was much more difficult than in years gone by. This accompanied by the fact that pharmacy practice has developed quicker than the funding streams in community pharmacy means that I felt between a rock and a hard place in terms of developing a fulfilling career.

My journey

My route has perhaps been a little unorthodox. I signed up for Twitter and shortly afterward downloaded the WordPress app and began writing. Prior to this, it may surprise some to learn that I was rather averse to social media. In fact, I didn’t even have a mobile phone.

Blogging was not the complete answer but for me it was cathartic and helped me settle on my professional ethos. Surprisingly for me people read what I wrote.

I believe simply that pharmacists should use pharmaceutical care to manage patients using tools like prescribing when appropriate. I also think that pharmacists should be autonomous practitioners and as such should take professional responsibility for the care of the patient. If we do this then the profession will continue to flourish and move to a new stage of development.

It occurred to me, however, that I cannot effect change on my own. It gives you a good feeling when people engage with what you write and perhaps have a debate. I would urge caution around this feeling. I quickly learned that operating in isolation would only achieve so much.

It was at this moment that I decided to run for the Board. Up against very well respected candidates I was very lucky to get on in third place. I still have to pinch myself when I sit down across the table from some of the most respected pharmacists in Scotland.

It really is an honour to have been elected to the Scottish Pharmacy Board. The process is a democratic one and if you get voted on you have as much right to be there as the Board member to your left or to your right. There is a depth and breadth of experience around the table of the Scottish Pharmacy Board. The conversations and robust debate reflect the blend of Board members from across many sectors and across various levels of experience.

Discussions at Board meetings in Scotland are robust and at times passionate but throughout there is a deep respect for the views of others. Team Scotland, led by Alex MacKinnon, are extremely effective at making decisions and delivering for members.

So one year in and I am enjoying the experience, but have two more years to inspire as many Pharmacists as possible to be as good as they can be. If you have any kind of opinion about the direction our profession should take, I would encourage you to stand for election to your RPS national Pharmacy Board and have your say. This year I have opportunities before me that would never exist had I not been a member of the Scottish Board or indeed a member of the RPS.

If you don’t get involved, you will never know what you could have achieved. If you are a non-member, I encourage you to join, get involved and see what the RPS can do for you and your career.

Good luck if you stand. I will be cheering you on from the sidelines.

With Johnathan’s story, we would like to remind you that you have until noon on 31 March to stand as a candidate in the 2017 RPS National Pharmacy Board elections. For more information, please visit the official page for this year’s elections.

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